Travel isn’t always about leisure. Sometimes it has an element of discovery, self-discovery, and reflection. Jozefow, Poland is one such destination.
Jozefow is a relatively small village in southeast Poland. It is near two lakes now largely used for recreation by those in the district, and has large areas of forest nearby. It was thrust into infamy in the 1940s, however as a one (of the all too many) killing operations perpetrated by the Nazis.
The particular case of Jozefow was used as the backdrop for Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. This book and its thesis that the perpetrators of the Holocaust were by in large “ordinary men,” has been debated by Goldhagen and others, but the underlying events remain the same, no matter what the motivation.
The Jewish community of Jozefow was rounded up taken to the nearby forest and killed. What modern Jozefow leaves us is a synagogue now used as a library, a disused cemetery, a memorial in the forest, and a dark legacy of human inhumanity.
It is a sad to me that hundreds of people use the leisure facilities of the nearby lakes apparently oblivious to the events that occurred only metres away in the forest. Fair enough, it was “a long time ago,” but for those of us “in the know,” let’s not let the memory be lost.